For 2018, the tried and true Volkswagen Golf maintains the understated styling that is one of the keys to its long-term success, but a few subtle revisions freshen it up.
LED daytime running lights complement a new front bumper and chrome-surround grille, and new full standard LED taillights along with new chrome accents liven up the rear view.
There are two trim levels of the 2018 Golf: S and SE. Both trims have the same engine, a turbocharged 1.8-liter TSI four-cylinder, and the choice between a five-speed manual transmission and an optional six-speed automatic.
The engine produces 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque when paired with the manual transmission. Torque increases to 199 pound-feet with the automatic.
City-highway-combined fuel economy ratings are 25/34/29 mpg with a manual transmission and 24/33/28 mpg with an automatic.
Base pricing including an $895 destination charge starts at $21,805 for an S model with manual transmission. The high-end SE with automatic transmission starts at $25,650.
The compact VW Golf is deservedly well known for its invigorating power and handling, quality construction, good fuel economy and affordable pricing. My test week in a Golf SE with manual transmission reinforced that reputation. The car is rock solid, a joy to drive on Snohomish County’s winding and picturesque backroads, and has a smooth, quiet ride at highway speeds.
I’m duty-bound to mention something less favorable: The five-speed manual transmission shifts effortlessly and with great responsiveness, but can’t go very far in first gear without winding out and begging for an upshift. Once out of first gear all is well, and Golf has so much power and torque it could drive comfortably at high speeds without going higher than fourth gear. (Volkswagen has rectified the situation for 2019 by giving Golf a manual transmission with six speeds instead of five.)
My most loved features inside the Golf tester were the comfortable seats with their attractive and cruelty free V-Tex leatherette surfaces, the infotainment system with its phenomenal level of audio clarity, and the 8-inch touchscreen’s glass front, which has a wonderful feel and makes a nice little click with each touch. The audio control dials are a bit too small but that’s hardly worth mentioning.
Standard equipment on the SE trim is impressive. It includes features that can be extra cost options on other cars in this price range. A sampling: power tilt and sliding panoramic sunroof, heated six-way adjustable front seats with power recline and manual lumbar support, blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, halogen front fog lights with low-speed cornering lights, and forward collision warning with emergency braking and pedestrian detection. The VW Car-Net system is also standard, providing smartphone integration and interface, remote control vehicle access, and emergency connectivity.
2018 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF TSI SE
Base price, including destination charge: $24,550
Price as driven: $24,970
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.